Les Brown says, “Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Selena Gomez sings, “The heart wants what it wants.”
I don’t want the moon. Ever since I watched Apollo 13, space flight has seriously freaked me out. I’m grateful for NASA and people with steelier nerves than me, but I am not Elon Musk. This girl enjoy warm showers and abundant oxygen.
What if your heart really doesn’t know what it wants? There was a time when knew I didn’t like my job, and I had aspirations of improving myself, being happier, living for the moment and other regurgitated platitudes, but I didn’t know how to get there. Those are emotions, not actionable goals. They are vague. How do you get there, that ambiguous place where you are happy and present? Where is there?
Further, how do I know what my heart wants? This is also a vague question. Not every person knows from a young age exactly what career path or life goal he or she wants. Often, people are in painful situations precisely because they don’t know what they want. As for me, I’m a literal person. My masters degree is clinical exercise physiology. Between the AV node, QRS complex and cardiac output, I think my heart is just telling me to go run more stairs.
Goal Setting Takes Work
Goal setting can be hard, both in life and in the gym. It takes deep thought, consideration, and time to decide what you want out of life. What you are really deciding on is where to spend your time and that is a hugely difficult decision! Time is the most valuable resource, one that no brilliant researcher or billionaire has found a way to create more of.
What is most worthy of spending your time working toward?
You Start Where You Start
Begin by acknowledging this: you start where you start. You can try to deny it and jump ahead, but it will only hurt you. You are in a factual situation; if you are 15 credits and a thesis away from a degree, you have 15 credits and a thesis to go. If you can squat 150 pounds, you can squat 150 pounds. In the gym, trying to skip steps and start at a place too advanced can hurt you. There is no shame in starting where you are.
How to Decide What You Want
Get out your calendar right now. Schedule two separate half hour chunks of time where you sit down and think.
At this first session, sit by yourself, put your phone on airplane mode in the next room over, and let your mind wander. This is a brainstorming session in which you don’t cut down anything. You can decide later if it’s a bigger goal than you are willing to work toward. For now, just think about possibilities.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I want my ideal workday to look like one year from now?
- Where do I want to retire?
- Who am I good at helping?
- What am I good at doing?
- What do I enjoy doing?
- What do I need to be happy?
- What do I want to be happy?
These are malleable goals. Do not stress yourself into thinking there is one perfect vision of life you are chasing. You can adjust goals as you go. People naturally do this all the time. College students begin by declaring a major, take some classes, and either confirm their decision or change it. People in the workforce have mid-life career changes and restructure their whole lives to change jobs.
In the gym, people begin working toward one goal and shift toward another. Bikini competitors begin train for a show and realize they like powerlifting. Crossfitters will begin prescribed workouts and decide to focus on Olympic lifting. These things are allowed to happen! They are all part of finding what you naturally enjoy and do well.
How to Decide What You Want, Session 2
At your next half hour goal session, rewrite these thoughts into more accomplishable goals. Take these point by point and break them down into less abstract feelings and more concrete action steps.
For example, my brainstorming session 1 looked similar to this:
I want to be happy! I want to be flexible and live on my own terms. I’m not happy in an office 40 hours a week, and I always gravitate back toward the gym, even though the last “office job” I had was in fitness and only a few hours a day at a desk. One of my favorite things in the gym is teaching the deadlift for the first time, and watching people realize they are stronger than they thought.
I want to help people. I hate hate hate ALS and want to help people with it, but I keep getting my tender heart broken every time I get to know another patient who is living with ALS. How can I help and not be sad all the time? We need to find a cure.
I want to go to Paris again, and travel more! I want to learn French, but I could spend all that time reading more exercise research. Hmm.
To accomplish: drive my big lifts up (bench press, deadlift, squat). Get big shoulders. Also I want to want to do yoga, but haven’t decided if I want to.
Longer term goal: I will have a condo by Tiger Stadium to stay in when I go to football games.
These are a good start. They are inherently pretty vague and selfish. Take the first one, for example. “Be happy, and live on my own terms.” Yes, we all want to be happy. That’s froo froo talk. What does it take for me to be happy? For starters, enjoying what I do for work. I can’t just clock in and clock out. Happiness also means seeing live music often, since that is my favorite pastime outside the gym. Spending time with my family is a priority.
Regarding my rambling goals about helping people: this is a great start too. James 2:26 says, “Faith without works is dead.” Similarly, it is a kind intention to want to help people, but I need to act on it. Instead of just sending well wishes into the atmosphere, I am going to volunteer with Max’s Ride (a non-profit motorcycle ride and concert which benefits ALS patients), and the ALS Association.
From looking at these first two points with the goal to act on them, I can say that to be happy, and fulfilled, I need to teach lifting as a career. I love reading science journals, so the ethical continuing education is enjoyable for me. I will make it a point to get my friends together to watch live music, visit out of town family members, and volunteer with local organizations against ALS.
Pull out your brainstorming list and think strategically about how to make those softer goals more tangible. Nothing is wrong with the softer goals, but if you can’t think of a plan to reach them, you probably won’t reach them.
Make 1, 5, and 10 Year Goals
Now that you have made a big, general brainstorm about what you want out of life, and you’ve restructured those wants into processes to reach them, think about that career question again. What do you wish your ideal workday looked like today?
Perhaps you would wake up, take your children to school, and head to the office. It’s not a cake walk, but you get some concentrated, hard work done on a satisfying challenge. At a good break point, you head to the gym, blow off some steam and sweat a bit, and head home for a cell-phone free dinner with the family.
Perhaps you ideal day begins with a workout. You sweat it up while thinking about that vacation you are planning, and the business you are building to get there. You invest your work and time heavily into yourself, have lunch with a mentor, then put your head back in the game a few more hours before heading off to happy hour to watch a band with friends.
Your ideal life routine might be different from either of those scenarios. Consider your ideal routine, and ask yourself if it is do-able. Can you imagine it being a realistic scenario? Given 10 years, do you think you can organize your life in a way that you reach that ideal day? It might be more realistic than you think.
Think about what you wish you had done 10 years ago. What do you wish you had started 10 years ago that you could be working with today? You probably have not just 10 years, but decades ahead of you. You have time to achieve gigantic goals. You just have to identify those goals and work toward them.
5 Year Goals
It’s pretty safe to say that by now, you’ve thought of some 10 year goals. Hopefully you were honest about what you want to have/work toward, and didn’t chalk any up to just being a pipe dream. To help get you there, think about your halfway point. These are your 5 year goals. Let’s take my last brainstorm point, which is to own a condo by Tiger Stadium. It’s doesn’t need to (and won’t) happen by this football season, but I’d really like it to happen. Like many goals, the way to achieve this one is simple: I can begin by saving money, which will allow me to have a large down payment by the time I am ready to act on this.
1 Year Goals
Think of these like your to do list. You can start on these now. Right now. Make a plan to go by the bank tomorrow and open a new savings account. Deposit a certain amount of money in it each month. Research non-profits to be involved in, with the goal to commit a certain number of hours to it each month. Find a gym you will go to twice a week, a trainer or accountability partner, and do it.
Do you remember the ice bucket challenge? I was lucky enough to be able to jump right in since I was volunteering with the ALS Association. It did great things for advocacy and awareness for ALS!
Relating specifically to body goals I want you to really think about what you want. Without inhibition, without guilt, without shame. You own your body. You get to choose your goals. Nobody else. I’ve had several clients females who were very hesitant to share their goals with me. I knew there were things left unspoken so after some gentle but persistent prodding they shared with me that they felt it was unfeminist to have vain body goals.
I think it’s the opposite. A very liberated individual is entitled to feel great in her own skin. You are the only person in your own skin. You have to live in your body all day. If you don’t like how your clothes fit, YOU wear the discomfort all day. Don’t you deserve better? You have to be uncomfortable walking upstairs if you’re out of shape. You have to look in the mirror and feel good or bad about yourself. You own your body and you have every right to decide how you look how you feel and what you want. Feminist or not, you’ll have the right to set your own goals without consulting others.
And you deserve to feel good in your skin. You own your body.
If you are on a restrictive diet, you’re the one who feels hungry all day, and if you have an eating disorder you’re the one who bears the burden all the time. You owe it to yourself to take care of your health. Your body is an outward manifestation of your health. Who cares what other people want you to look like? You decide for yourself what you want.
Tell Me Your Goals
I am fascinated by the decisions people make. What do you want? What are you working toward? How can I help you get there? Let me know! Email me now. email@example.com